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Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905–2016

Oct 28, 2016–Feb 5, 2017

Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905–2016 focuses on the ways in which artists have dismantled and reassembled the conventions of cinema—screen, projection, darkness—to create new experiences of the moving image. The exhibition will fill the Museum’s 18,000-square-foot fifth-floor Neil Bluhm Family Galleries, and will include a film series in the third-floor Susan and John Hess Family Theater. 

The exhibition’s title refers to the science fiction writer H.P. Lovecraft’s alternate fictional dimension, whose terrain of cities, forests, mountains, and an underworld can be visited only through dreams. Similarly, the spaces in Dreamlands will connect different historical moments of cinematic experimentation, creating a story that unfolds across a series of immersive spaces.

The exhibition will be the most technologically complex project mounted in the Whitney’s new building to date, embracing a wide range of moving image techniques, from hand-painted film to the latest digital technologies. The works on view use color, touch, music, spectacle, light, and darkness to confound expectations, flattening space through animation and abstraction, or heightening the illusion of three dimensions.

Dreamlands spans more than a century of works by American artists and filmmakers, and also includes a small number of works of German cinema and art from the 1920s with a strong relationship to, and influence on, American art and film. Featured are works in installation, drawing, 3-D environments, sculpture, performance, painting, and online space, by Trisha Baga, Ivana Bašić, Frances Bodomo, Dora Budor, Ian Cheng, Bruce Conner, Ben Coonley, Joseph Cornell, Andrea Crespo, François Curlet, Alex Da Corte, Oskar Fischinger, Liam Gillick, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Pierre Huyghe, Alex Israel, Mehdi Belhaj Kacem and Pierre Joseph, Aidan Koch, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Anthony McCall, Josiah McElheny, Syd Mead, Lorna Mills, Jayson Musson, Melik Ohanian, Philippe Parreno, Jenny Perlin, Mathias Poledna, Edwin S. Porter, Oskar Schlemmer, Hito Steyerl, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Stan VanDerBeek, Artie Vierkant, and Jud Yalkut, among others.

Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905–2016 is organized by Chrissie Iles, Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Curator.

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Joseph Cornell

To make this mysterious film, Joseph Cornell cut up a 16mm print of the black-and-white Hollywood film East of Borneo (1931). He removed the soundtrack and discarded the plot, retaining only shots of the characters expressing emotions and those focused on the film’s star, Rose Hobart, which he reordered and interspersed with footage from other sources, including a candle, a crowd watching an eclipse, and a white ball falling into a rippling pond. The resulting film, projected at a slowed-down speed, creates a new composition defined by mood, atmosphere, gestures, and subtle transitions.

By projecting the film through a glass filter whose deep blue tint creates a surreal atmosphere suggestive of dreams and the night sky, Cornell has created a portrait of the unconscious mind, allowing us to enter the artist’s own hermetic world through a film that always keeps us at the edge of comprehension. For this presentation, Josiah McElheny, whose work is also included in this exhibition, has created a replica of Cornell’s original glass filter, now in the collection of Anthology Film Archives.

Installation view of Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905–2016 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, October 28, 2016–February 5, 2017). Joseph Cornell (1903-1972), Rose Hobart, 1936. 16mm film, black-and-white, silent, 20 min., transferred to video with blue glass. Rachard L. Feigen and Company, New York; © and courtesy The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Photograph by Ron Amstutz

Installation Photography

Installation view of Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905–2016 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, October 28, 2016–February 5, 2017). Photograph by Ron Amstutz
Installation view of Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905–2016 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, October 28, 2016–February 5, 2017). Photograph by Ron Amstutz
Installation view of Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905–2016 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, October 28, 2016–February 5, 2017). Photograph by Ron Amstutz
Installation view of Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905–2016 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, October 28, 2016–February 5, 2017). Photograph by Ron Amstutz
Installation view of Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905–2016 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, October 28, 2016–February 5, 2017). Photograph by Ron Amstutz
Installation view of Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905–2016 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, October 28, 2016–February 5, 2017). Photograph by Ron Amstutz
Installation view of Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905–2016 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, October 28, 2016–February 5, 2017). Photograph by Ron Amstutz
Installation view of Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905–2016 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, October 28, 2016–February 5, 2017). Photograph by Ron Amstutz
Installation view of Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905–2016 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, October 28, 2016–February 5, 2017). Photograph by Ron Amstutz
Installation view of Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905–2016 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, October 28, 2016–February 5, 2017). Photograph by Ron Amstutz
Installation view of Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905–2016 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, October 28, 2016–February 5, 2017). Photograph by Ron Amstutz
Installation view of Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905–2016 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, October 28, 2016–February 5, 2017). Photograph by Ron Amstutz
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360 Videos

These 360 videos offer a new way to explore Dreamlands. Use your mouse or move your Android phone to look around three of the exhibition’s immersive spaces. If you're on an iPhone, watch directly in the YouTube app. You can also use a VR headset.

This screening series, part of the exhibition Dreamlands, highlights a range of cinematic approaches from optical abstraction to science fiction.

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Offsite—Dreamlands: Expanded

Dreamlands: Expanded is a series of expanded cinema events organized by Microscope Gallery in Brooklyn in collaboration with the Museum as part of Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1906–2016

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Exhibition Catalogue

This generously illustrated publication surveys the work of filmmakers and artists who have pushed the material and conceptual boundaries of cinema through explorations of how technology transforms experience. The essays published here offer an intensive look at the themes of cinematic space, formats of the screen, animation and CGI, the body and the cyborg, and the materiality of film. Contributors place particular emphasis on the idea of the cinema as a sensorium and on the ways in which it defines the human body, both through representation and in relation to the projected image.

An essay by Chrissie Iles titled “The Cyborg and the Sensorium” is available to read below. The catalogue also includes essays by Karen Archey, Giuliana Bruno, John Canemaker, Brian Droitcour, Noam M. Elcott, Tom Gunning, J. Hoberman, Esther Leslie, and David Lewis.

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